CLEVELAND– The FOX 8 I-Team is asking the unanswered questions about a plan for players and police to join together this weekend in pregame ceremonies following an uproar over players kneeling during the national anthem.
The I-Team revealed last week the Cleveland Police and EMS unions backed out of a plan to hold the American flag on the field. The unions responded that way to seeing some Browns players kneeling before a preseason game during the national anthem.
Then this week, the I-Team learned police would, in fact, take part.
Browns running back Duke Johnson said, “I mean, we appreciate it.” He added, “Our message was never against them or against the military. I mean, you know, it was just about right or wrong.”
Meantime, linebacker Jamie Collins said, “It’s all good. Ain’t nothing changed.” But when asked what the group kneeling tried to accomplish, he simply answered, “Everything.” And he would not elaborate.
The kneeling during the anthem has been described by players as social protest and praying.
This week, the organization met with police to discuss concerns and work things out.
The I-Team reviewed an internal police document from this week showing 20 Cleveland Police officers will take part in the pregame.
A handful of firefighters and a handful of EMS workers are also expected to take part. Plans include having the safety forces run onto the field with the players through the tunnel from the locker room.
“Communication’s the key,” said Steve Loomis, president of the union for Cleveland Police officers. He said he’s glad the Browns met with police. The unions have said go ahead and protest but not during the national anthem. Loomis added, “Not that venue. Not at that time when the national anthem is playing. That’s just a terrible decision to make.”
But a retired police officer’s group sees it differently. The African-American Law Enforcement Retiree Association supports the right for players to protest even during the anthem. Retired Cleveland Police Commander Marvin Cross said, “We have some issues that need straightened out. But the only way we can straighten out this thing is the community and police working together.”
Nonetheless, players we met wouldn’t rule out kneeling during the anthem in the future. We asked linebacker Christian Kirksey if the players would kneel again, and he answered, “You know, who knows?
We also reached out to Cleveland City Hall multiple times to find out more about the safety forces taking part in opening day events this weekend; the City did not provide any answers.
The Browns say the organization had been talking to police long before all of this flared up, and the team is hoping players and police will work together making a difference on the streets.